The promos of the new Rani Mukerji film Aiyyyyaaa, suggests it is about the Marathi mulgi wanting to marry a Madrassi ladka, while resorting to obscene gyrations in skimpy clothes to suit the Madrassi fantasy of feminine allure while screaming Pullingum and Streelingum and everything in between just makes me want to scream my frustration from the rooftops!!!! And dare you say, develop a sense of humour! I'd say say that to me after you get your facts right!
We of the races of the brown skinned, do not all trace our lineage to the unimaginatively homogenised population of brown/black/dark skinned men and women. The depictions are always of resplendent nine-yard silk sarees, a yellow cloth bag and white 'lungis' and of course a couple of 'Ayyo Ammas' thrown in for good measure. We are all stamped with the royal seal of being the citizens of the erstwhile Madras.Even if your history is strong enough to help you argue that Madras was also the name of the Residency that comprised of five princely states encompassing a larger geographical area than the city, I'd still tell you to go back and read up on how even in the days of the British Raj, Mysoreans and Hyderabadis would have killed if they were all clubbed with the Madrassis!!!
The region called South India or Dakshin Bharat of today comprises of four states not one. Our scripts differ, our languages differ and if you ask any 'Madrassi', they will probably be able to identify the region from which the other Madrassi ( as you tag us) is from with microscopic preciseness!!
Now, that we have set the tone for the post, let me clarify - this isn't a rant! We have so much to rant about which have already been ranted about - The Ayyos, the Ammas, the Rajnikanth jokes (which I must agree we also louuuve to participate in), the Nariyal and Nariyal tel jibes. But amidst all this, I was trying to see what are the points of commonality that could make me look the other way, when someone calls me Ohhh you Madrassi!
Guess what I came up with - FOOD. Food is the greatest unifier ever. I was looking at international cuisine and I realised that every region has its own cuisine and what we call Italian - could be Roma, Napolitan, Sicilian and what not. Take Chinese food for instance - (Ahhh not those made in oily unclean woks in your neighbourhood by the Bihari boy, who came to be a cleaner at the neighbourhood kirana shop! ) - the spicier versions can be from Sichuan, Manchurian is in fact a regional style of cooking from Manchuria and not all that is red and batter fried!
Coming back to the Madrassi point I was making, I was explaining it to someone very dear but very ignorant about 'Madrassi ways' that there is no South Indian/Madrassi khana or food category!
Malayali cuisine is leaps and jumps different from Tamilian or Kannadiga fare. The fiery Telugu fare is a class apart! Now this led to the interesting twist in the tale - the ignorant posed the next question - so whose cuisine is idlis, dosas and sambar? Now you have me stumped!! In Kerala, we make doshas, in Tamil Nadu dosais, Kannadigas do dosas too!! Hmmm...I can tell you a madrassi sambar from a Malayali sambar and the kannada or telugu saaru. A sambar without coconut oil tadka isn't kosher in Kerala - try serving that in any of the other three states and the finicky nose would shrivel up quicker than you can say sambar! But then come to think of it, these are all the culinary interpretations of multiple chefs speaking four different languages to cater to the palate of four different brown-populations!! Similarly an idli by another other name would taste just as divine with coconut chutney, sambar and the podi (known to the uninitiated as gun-powder!) The taste of the podi might differ, but the concept is the same - the rendering different.
On this subject- a delicate clarification - if you are in Kerala, you can ask for and get a sadya. ( That's a traditional Onam sadya in the photo alongside!) Go to Madras and ask for one, and you might draw a blank unless the person you asked this of is a Malayali (which is a pretty plausible possibility anywhere in the world!). Sappadu in Tamil Nadu is verrrrrrry different from the sadya in Kerala. Comparing the two might be like comparing mozarella cheese and mascarpone cheese!
So the other day I made rasam and then ran to the nearest Udipi and picked up vadas - medu vadas to you, uzhunnu vadas to me and udad vadas to some! And then plopped it with that yummmmm sound into the boiling rasam..Left it there for about half an hour, ladled it into two steel bowls and in three minutes flat, the bowls would have looked unused were it not for that lingering smell and a stray bit of kari-patta that was ignored..And the satiated tummy sent a placatory message to the seething brain - 'No one knows which of the four South Indian cooking moghuls made the rasam or the vada. But whoever did, created a widely replicated masterpiece.'
So if you swoon Ayyo Amma you Madrassis and how you cook this, I'll probably be benevolent enough to smile at you and pass you another bowlful of yumminess. For the rest of the time, I'd say forget it and pass you a Social Studies text book to get your history, geography and general knowledge up to speed!!!